I thought when I decided to commit to a year of Tao that I would be posting about it, about my discoveries and my thoughts on those discoveries. But I find that the more I study, the less I have to say. Partly because I realize how little I know, but more essentially because the more I learn the less there is to say. The living Tao is an elusive story about a way of being, not a set of abstract ideas.
I know when I first discovered it, many years ago (before I consciously -- and I now believe wrongly -- put it aside as being among my outgrown adolescent affectations) I spent a few years trying to incorporate it into my life. I don’t think it was wasted time. I did learn -- or maybe unlearn -- a lot of the mystery behind the obvious. Even now a very good friend of mine from those days, who has since become a respected Yoga and Buddhist teacher, has told me I was one of his first teachers, that I pointed him some basic things.
Yet I found I found myself unsatisfied and adrift, and spent quite a bit of time looking for the stories of others who had gone the same way I was going but found value in it. I found none. Every time I looked I found the opposite -- people who had been drifting but found meaning. I wanted to find something by someone who had gone from meaning to drifting. Until one day I realized that people who truly followed Tao rarely wrote about it. As Chuang Tzu puts it,
“The man of Tao
Is ‘True Self’
And the greatest man
Or as Lao Tsu put it, “Those who know do not talk/Those who talk do not know.” (Ch. 56)
But these are not answers, of course. Lao Tsu and Chuang Tzu were not nobodies. They talked and wrote. Why then should I trust their words?
Yet I know there is something there, beyond the words themselves, which are signposts to something else, something, as Lao Tsu says, is indefinable, which when found leaves the words behind as empty husks.
So I’m looking for something that cannot be found and trying to find understanding where there can be none. In the undefined belief that something of value lies somewhere in there. (And something that has haunted me for years, no matter how hard I tried to ignore it). A search that can obviously be dangerous. As Chuang Tzu put it,
“If you persist in trying
To attain what is never attained
(it is Tao’s gift)
If you persist in making effort
To obtain what effort cannot get;
If you persist in reasoning
About what cannot be understood,
You will be destroyed
By the very thing you seek.”
Yikes, to put it mildly.
Yet Chuang Tzu closes by adding these words of hope:
“To know when to stop
To know when you can get no further
By your own action,
This is the right beginning!”
So this is what I am doing, seeking the beginning to something I don’t know I can find, and when I get there I will get nowhere but somewhere.
Wish me luck (Zen maybe I will get it.)
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